• Clif Grant

The lives and deaths of farmed pigs

Updated: Jan 20

Almost all pigs spend their entire adult lives in confined and cramped conditions, surrounded by cold metal bars; forced to lie on wet, faeces-covered floors. They are very clean animals by nature, yet we force them to stand in their own urine, faeces and often amid the corpses of other pigs. (Just take a look at a recent visit to a Northern Irish pig farm that several VKind activists took part in with animal rights group Meat the Victims.)

Confinement, loneliness, and deprivation causes mothering sows to go insane, manifesting in neurotic behavior, such as biting cage bars for hours on end. After three or four years, when their bodies are exhausted from repeated birthing, they will be sent to slaughter. (A pig's natural lifespan is 15-20 years.) In the UK, we kill nearly 11 million of these animals every year.

This 2019 video, which was made on farms owned by East Anglia Pig Company (the third largest pig meat producer in the UK) demonstrates the extreme, routine cruelty of the industry

Baby piglets’ tails are amputated, their teeth are clipped back to the gum line with pliers, their ears are mutilated and testicles cut out without any pain relief. They are crammed into pens where they will be kept until they are about 6 months old when they are deemed large enough for slaughter.

Because of lack of room to exercise and genetic manipulation that causes them to grow too large too quickly, farmed pigs often develop illnesses. In order to save money, farmers will simply kill the sick instead of paying for medicine or veterinary care.

Many will be left to die without food or water. On most farms, unwanted 'runts' are killed by 'thumping'--slamming their heads against the floor or wall.

So that's the life of a farmed pig...what are their deaths like?

CO2 stunning of pigs, also referred to as Controlled Atmosphere Stunning, is touted as the most humane method of rendering pigs unconscious at the slaughterhouse. It has become the industry standard in multiple countries worldwide, including the UK, and the most convenient way of killing pigs. In CO2 stunning, pigs are forced into a steel cage called a gondola, which is then lowered into a gas chamber.

Consider that, 1996, clear scientific evidence highlighted that CO2 stunning for pigs causes severe welfare problems and a high degree of suffering. The study concluded that pigs show profound aversion to the gas which leads to 'severe respiratory distress'.

This science was reviewed in 2003 by the Farmed Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), the UK Government’s own expert advisory body, which concluded that CO2 pig slaughter was 'not acceptable' and called for a ban within five years.

In 2015, leading animal welfare organisations, including Compassion in World Farming and Eurogroup for Animals, wrote a well-publicised letter to the European Commission demanding a ban on the method described as being 'extremely aversive' and causing unnecessary 'pain and suffering'.

And yet after all this, CO2 pig slaughter has continued into 2020, with no signs of stopping or even slowing down.

But what is humane about killing animals we have no need to harm at all?

Words like ‘humane’ are bandied about for the advancement of mass extermination gas chambers built on the belief that it is morally acceptable to end someone's life merely because we like the taste of their flesh.

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